Emily Dell ’06 travels the trendy highway of mobile entrepreneurship, driving new clothes directly to her customers in a fashion truck business called Runaway.
Her “mobile boutique” — a 24-foot Ford delivery van that inside resembles a chic store — holds a rotating stock of about 250 pieces of apparel plus accessories, providing a shopping experience on wheels.
Runaway takes the food truck idea and applies it to fashion, avoiding the high cost of rent.
“So many retailers are shuttering their doors because they can’t compete with online retailers with their overhead,” says Dell, now in her third year of business. “I’m able to continue to be out there year after year, offering my customers signature pieces.”
According to the American Mobile Retail Association, there are at least 500 mobile shops across the country that go where their customers are — street fairs, farmers markets, or downtown shopping districts.
Runaway is based in Hoboken, where Dell has a permit to park and sell. She also travels to festivals and is available for home parties, corporate events and fundraisers. The company recently started selling online to help cover the winter months, when travel is difficult and festivals are few.
Dell studied communications at Seton Hall, coming east from Akron, Ohio, because she wanted to be near Manhattan.
Seton Hall has great marketing and communications programs, and has a great location, she says. “I saw a lot of students landing internships at really strong companies. It was a great opportunity for me.”
Dell ended up working at a few public-relations agencies after graduation, but “fashion was always an interest.”
“And I knew there was something that I wanted — to be my own boss and have the freedom that comes from entrepreneurial lifestyle,” she says. Fashion trucks were popping up, and she liked the flexibility they afforded.
Key to Dell’s success is her husband, Jonathan Kazary, who owns an auto-body shop in Linden. Not only did he take an older truck and refit it for the business, but he also maintains it, eliminating one of the major costs of running a mobile store.
The business itself was started with her sister, Hilary Dell, a fashion designer and buyer, who educated her on the clothing business. Her sister has since left to pursue other dreams, and Dell runs the operation solo.
“You’re responsible for everything. You can’t pass the buck. You have to be aware and knowledgeable about everything, and it demands that you learn new skills.”
By Kim de bourbon and William Golba, M.A. ’16